Capture the Essence of Hawaii: A Guide to Landscape Photography in Paradise

Hawaii Landscape Photography

Hawaii, the picturesque paradise nestled in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, is a Hawaii landscape photographer's dream. Its diverse landscapes, from stunning beaches and volcanic terrains to lush rainforests and dramatic cliffs, offer an abundance of opportunities to capture breathtaking moments through the lens of a camera. Whether you're a seasoned professional or an amateur enthusiast, exploring Hawaii's unique terrain will leave you in awe of its natural beauty and offer countless possibilities for Hawaii landscape photography.

A dream-like scene with the beach sand smoothed into the blue ocean water and distant mountain islands with lofty clouds filling the blue sky.

This is an image I have only seen in my dreams...until I landed on Oahu and set my own eyes on it. The sandy beach and calm blue water with the distant islands brings a peace only the ocean can bring.


Embrace the Diversity of Landscapes

Hawaii's diverse topography provides an endless supply of landscapes to explore and photograph. Each of the islands boast a variety of environments, each with its own distinct characteristics just waiting to be captured as beautiful pictures of Hawaii.


The Big Island: Volcanic Majesty

The Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island, had been shaped by the elemental forces of volcanoes and is home to two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The lava fields stretch for miles and create amazing landscapes where the lava rock meets the shore. With each eruption of the volcanoes, the island is reshaped and provides an ever changing landscape to photographers to capture amazing Hawaii pictures.

Smoke rises from a active volcano filling the night sky with a orangish colors from the lava. The moon shines across the landscape with silhouettes of trees.

Incredible night watching lava steam and smoke fill the night sky with a fiery red orange glow from the crater. The Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are active volcanoes on the Big Island. It's a incredible site to stand and watching this active volcano.

In this unique wave image, a perfect glass wave is backlit as it crashes into the shore. Shop this print and a variety wave images for sale.

This amazing backlit wave comes crashing into the shore during the early morning sunrise.


Kauai: Lush Green Valleys of the Garden Isle

Kauai is a haven of lush greenery and dramatic cliffs with the iconic Na Pali Coast showcasing towering cliffs plunging into the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. This is one of my favorite islands for Hawaii Landscape Photography. Check out the Kauai Photography Workshop and sign up to join us on this gorgeous island where we'll even take a dinner cruise along the Napali Coast.

Napali Coast lush green cliffs are shrouded in clouds as the sun peeks through to cast light on the scene at sunset and a waterfall tumbles over the cliffs that

This enchanting image of a Napali coast waterfall, kiddsed by sunlight and embraced by majestic spires was captured on a sunset cruise on our Light Chasing Photo Tours Kauai photography workshop. The sun just peeked through and cast light on the coastline to create these dramatic views of the Garden Island of Kauai.

You can also find the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" in Waimea Canyon and valleys filled with waterfalls like Wailua Falls just north of Lihue. From the cliffs to the valleys and waterfalls, Kauai is a lush green paradise for nature enthusiasts to snag beautiful Hawaii pictures.

Cliffs and dramatic views of plush green and waterfalls in Hawaii. Clouds fill the scene with sunlight shines along the cliffs.

There are so many amazing views and hikes is Kauai. This hike on the Kalepa Ridge trail (Airplane trail) which is located at Kalalau lookout in the Koke'e State park. This hike has the most incredible views with the Napali coast. This evening we had many clouds fill the valley and soft light across the ridges to the ocean beach below. This is one my favorite images from this Garden Island known as Kauai.


Maui: Beautiful Beachscapes | Road to Hana

Maui is filled with world-renowned beaches and the iconic Road to Hana that winds through lush rainforests and passes by multiple stunning waterfalls and dramatic views of the coast. A must to see if you're a Hawaii Landscape photographer on Maui is the Haleakala Volcano. This dormant volcano provides an unreal location to watch the sunrise or sunset from above the clouds.

Looking straight up in the bamboo forest the scene if filled with tall, thin, green trunks topped with delicate leaves with a little sky lighting through.

The Maui bamboo forest is a magical place. The sound of them gently blowing in the breeze as their hollow trunks collide and their height is just incredible to be surrounded by.

Between the coastline and golden sand beaches, Maui's diversity provides endless opportunities for Hawaii landscape photographers. We also offer a Maui Photography Workshop and would love to have you join us! Feel free to contact Joe directly for more information or if you have any questions.

Colorful surfboards line up along a fence with palm tree leaves peeking over the top.

This surfboard fence on Maui was a lot of fun to capture. It brings a rainbow of colors that can make a wonderful accent in any room! This image is also available as an ultrawide panoramic as Surfboard Love.

This beautiful beach in Maui has palm trees casts shadows over the warm Hawaiian waters of Maui.

This quiet small beach I visited many times for my perfect paradise getaway. The shadows from the Palm trees cast over the shallow warm waters.


Oahu: An Island Full of Urban Charms

While Honolulu and Waikiki Beach provide some of the more urban island lifestyle and vibes, the North Shore offers a laid-back atmosphere and powerful waves that attract both surfers and Hawaii nature photographers seeking the perfect wave shot. Wave photography requires an underwater housing for your camera and can take a lot of practice. I've spent a fair share of time getting slammed around in waves learning techniques to creating beautiful Hawaii pictures of waves in the warm, blue waters of Hawaii.

A dream-like scene with the beach sand smoothed into the blue ocean water and distant mountain islands with lofty clouds filling the blue sky.

This is an image I have only seen in my dreams...until I landed on Oahu and set my own eyes on it. The sandy beach and calm blue water with the distant islands brings a peace only the ocean can bring.


Jagged cliffs of Oahu stand across the water opposite a faded red painted dock.

This location is where part of Jurassic Park was filmed and it's no wonder why. The jagged cliffs and green landscapes paired with the stunning blue water are absolutely what dreams, and movies, are made of.

Waves explode along the rocky coast of Hawaii. These waves towering high in the air show the turquois colors of the Hawaii waters.

The waves crashing along the Napili coast is just intense as they explode against each other. Capturing these massive waves is just as exciting. This scene shows the power and intense ocean spray of turquoise water to shine through. Add this fine art image to your home or office that will take you away to Hawaii paradise.

Pearl Harbor Memorial | USS Arizona

The Pearl Harbor memorial and the Ko'olau Mountains demonstrate the diversity of the island as it presents the stunning Hawaii landscapes and cultural history of the island.

A black and white image after sunset of the uss Arizona memorial. The American flying above the memorial shown in color.

After sunset at the USS Arizona Memorial the internal lights turn on and cast a warm light. It was a quiet somber moment. This was a view I had to capture that expresses the gentle peaceful moment in time I had this evening.

A sailor is standing on board and inside the open white memorial structure with sunlight shining thru casting shadows lines across the floor.

Standing on the USS Arizona Memorial completely alone was not only a powerful moment in time but to have a active Navy sailor standing at parade rest was a moment in time I will always remember.



Lanai and Molokai: Untouched Landscapes

Lanai and Molokai, are the smaller and less touristy islands. They offer a glimpse into Hawaii's quieter and more secluded side. Lanai's Garden of the Gods presents a surreal landscape of rock formations. Also known as Keahiakawelo, the landscape is said to be the result of a contest between two kahuna from Lanai and Molokai where they were challenged to see who could keep a fire buring on of their lands the longest. while Molokai's rugged sea cliffs, namely the Kalaupapa Peninsula, create an atmosphere of serenity and isolation. These islands offer a peaceful escape and untouched landscapes, perfect for those seeking a more intimate and unspoiled Hawaiian experience.

Aerial photo of the Maui shoreline as the turquoise water comes in to kiss the sandy shore.

This image beautifully captures the moment where the powerful yet gentle ocean kisses the shore. Blue ocean waves and a sandy shore really are a match made in heaven.


Timing Is Everything

Sunrise and sunset in Hawaii are magical moments for Hawaii landscape photography. As most photographers know, shooting in the middle of the day with sunlight directly hitting the landscape is not ideal. However, wait until sunrise or sunset and the soft golden light on the landscape adds a stunning, warm, and dramatic touch to your images. Find the perfect vantage point, whether it's from on top of a volcanic crater, along the coastline, or above the clouds and let the changing colors of the sky create a mesmerizing backdrop for your images.

Backlit waves crashes along the Napali coast in Kauai. This sunset filled the entire sky orange creating a gorgeous Hawaii scene.

Hawaii sunsets are just spectacular over the Kauai coastline. This evening was just one of them. The incredible orange glow backlit the crashing waves along the Napali coast on Ke'e Beach. Known for it's beautiful turquoise waters and stunning beaches this is just another slice of paradise in the Hawaiian islands.

Three palm trees stand on the shore as the sun rises and lights up the sky along the ocean shore.

Oahu sunrise was perfect this morning. These three palm trees stood twisted as if trying to rub their eyes as the sun broke through to wake them up.

Beach Sunrise Photography | Palm Trees Photos | Best Sunrise In Oahu



Explore Off the Beaten Path

While the popular tourist spots offer incredible vistas, don't hesitate to venture off the beaten path. Discover hidden gems and lesser-known locations that showcase Hawaii's raw and untouched beauty. Engage with locals or seek guidance from experienced photographers familiar with the area to uncover secret spots that might not be on the typical tourist itinerary. Also, look at other Hawaii pictures for inspiration and unique locations for Hawaii Landscape Photography and consider a helicopter tour to capture pictures of areas inaccessible by vehicle or foot.

An aerial photo looking down the lush green cliffs of Kauai as they meet the deep blue waters of the ocean at the shore.

The cliffs of Kauai are always an incredible view. This image is a view looking right down the cliffs to the shoreline and was shot from a helicopter. There's no better way to get up close and personal with the best views of Kauai than in a helicopter!



Capture the Essence of Aloha

Hawaii isn't just about its landscapes; it's also about the spirit of Aloha – a warm, welcoming, and inclusive way of life. Incorporate the cultural richness and local traditions into your photography. Whether it's a hula dancer swaying gracefully or the vibrant colors of a traditional lei, these elements add depth and authenticity to your images, reflecting the soul of Hawaii. Know that luaus often sell out so if you're planning to attend one, make a reservation ahead of time and be sure to get permission to take photographs prior to your arrival. Check out Big Island Luaus to book yours today!

Man dancing with fire on sticks at Hawaiian luau.
Photo credit: https://www.hawaiitours.com/to-do/royal-kona-luau/



Gear Up for the Elements | Underwater Photography

Hawaii's diverse climate can range from tropical rain showers to intense sunbeams. Ensure your camera gear is equipped to handle these variations. A sturdy camera bag, weather-sealed equipment, and polarizing filters to enhance colors and reduce glare can be important additions to your camera bag. A waterproof housing is always a great option to have for capturing wave photography and underwater images of sea turtles and ocean life. Also remember to give your tripod a quick rinse if it's set in saltwater or sand while capturing the beauty of Hawaii landscapes.

Ocean waves break while being inside the wave looking down thru the barrel of it. Light shines thru the water of the wave reflecting the sunrise colors.

Early morning sunrise on the Big Island of Hawaii was perfect for wave photography at Waipio Valley known for it's jet black sandy beaches. The perfect waves for the perfect beach made this morning extra special. Just loved how the light was shining above the this breaking wave as it enclosed on me.

This Hawaiian green sea turtle was playing the warm waters of Kua Bay on the big island of Hawaii surfacing to get air nonstop.

I had a amazing time with this turtle on the beach of Kua Bay in Hawaii. This turtle was more interested in watching me as he was swimming around me. He would surface to get air then swim around me. What a incredible experience.


Final Thoughts | Hawaii Landscape Photography

A picturesque beach scene as the water gently kisses the shore lined with palm trees with the lush jagged cliffs against the perfectly blue sky.

Oahu's beauty seems endless walking along this North Shore beach with nothing but sand, palm trees, and the postcard lush green cliffs in the backdrop.

Ka'a'awa Sands Beach | North Shore Oahu Hawaii

Hawaii's unparalleled beauty and diverse landscapes provide an endless canvas for Hawaii landscape photographers. Whether you're drawn to the rugged coastlines, verdant valleys, or volcanic formations, the islands offer an abundance of opportunities to create stunning images that capture the essence of this tropical paradise.

So grab your camera, set out on an adventure, and let Hawaii's breathtaking landscapes inspire your photography. Explore, experiment, and immerse yourself in the magic of capturing the essence of Hawaii through your lens.


This guide aims to help photographers of all levels make the most of their journey through Hawaii's stunning landscapes. Whether you're seeking adventure or tranquility, the beauty of Hawaii awaits, ready to be captured and shared with the world. If you need a helping hand to get yourself to some of the best locations, consider signing up for our Maui Photography Workshop or the Kauai Photography Workshop and we'll bring you to the best locations at the best time of day so you can focus on photography with a trusted and experienced photography guide.


Hawaii Landscape Photography | Pictures of Hawaii by Joe Garza Photography